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Digital marketing, robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing … today’s business world looks a lot different to five or ten years ago. Just imagine what the next five years, or even the next 12 months, could bring. 

While every change brings exciting opportunities, it also presents a crucial challenge for business owners: what skills should you be building into your future workforce?


By arming your business with the right skills, you can ensure you are building a sustainable, competitive business for the future. Without these skills, you’ll get left behind. Simple as that. 

Here are a few skills that should be top of your list:

Problem solving and critical thinking

The ABC reports that 41% more time will be spent on critical thinking and judgment in future workplaces, while education expert Tony Wagner says problem solving and critical thinking are two of the survival skills of the future. These skills form the very foundation for innovation and will help businesses of all types and sizes push towards a competitive future. 

Data literacy

Data has the potential to affect all parts of your business. We’re talking about market data, customer behavioural insights, website analytics, sales data, and more. Understand your data and you can unlock new opportunities and overcome challenges. It’s how you can understand who you customers are, how they are engaging with you, and how to differentiate yourself from the competition. Data literacy is not a tech skill; it requires the ability to ask the right questions about data, use different sorts of tools to explore what the data means, and make sure a useful answer comes out. 

Digital know-how

We live in a digital age, so there’s no denying that digital skills are an absolute must-have for any business to survive. Australia’s Digital Pulse 2018 report revealed a “digital boom” created 22,300 ICT jobs in Australia in the last year alone. Crucially, the nature of technology investment is no longer just about driving productivity; it’s about meeting the expectations of increasingly connected and empowered consumers. 


Do your staff have the ability to adapt to meet changing business and industry needs? In a business world that is moving so fast, you cannot afford to get left behind. Case in point is the Australian retailers who are been shaken up by the arrival of Amazon, or the hotels struggling against Airbnb. Your task is to ensure everyone you work – at every level – has the ability to move with change, not against it. 

How to access the right skills

You don’t have to hire and train staff to get the skills advantage. Outsourcing is a hugely popular trend amongst small business (or any business, for that matter). It gives you access to the skills you need, when you need them, without costs associated with hiring employees. As you scale up, or as your business evolves, you can simply find freelance specialists who can help. For example, virtual assistants can provide the extra resource you need to manage your inbox and basic admin tasks, or more complex and time-consuming tasks, such as managing your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. While a freelance marketing assistant can help you avoid the common marketing mistakes.

If you do decide to invest in your own staff, be sure to check for any grants and subsidies that can help with costs (read our quick guide first!).

How do you know which skills your SME needs?

Start by doing some research into your industry and how it is changing. This will reveal which skills will be valuable to your business. But don’t stop at your industry niche, look at the wider business world. For example, global trends like the “gig economy” and the “sharing economy” have an impact on practically all businesses. 

Look to recruitment consultancies for the latest insights – they make it their business to know who’s getting hired (and who’s not). Sign up to their newsletters and blogs for general and industry-specific insights. For example, Seek published this article on core skills you should look for in your next candidate also has a web page on how to identify your skill needs. Look out for the latest insights and advice right here on our blog too. 


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